I Am Officially a Farmer

At least according to the US Department of Agriculture. 

This came in the mail yesterday, addressed to me:

The USDA Census of Agriculture happens once every five years. I suspect that we appeared on the USDA radar screen as a result of having our pigs processed at a USDA-approved facility, which is why the letter came addressed to me and not the husband. I am the producer of record on file with the processor because I handle all of the scheduling and payments. 

I was curious to see what kinds of questions they asked in the census, so I completed it this morning. My response is required by law, after all. We're small potatoes (see what I did there?) when it comes to farming operations and a lot of the questions didn't apply. We don't rent out our land to others or lease land for additional production by us (at least not until we can clone ourselves). We don't hire workers, undocumented or otherwise. We don't use commercial fertilizers. We don't participate in any kind of government program for loans or conservation. The funniest question was the one that asked how much of my/our time was spent on farm-related activities. Was it more than 50%? I didn't know how to answer that. There are plenty of days when we spend more than 50% of our time on farm-related activities, but in sum over the whole year, I'd have to say no. The census included a fair number of questions related to the financial aspects of our operation. I said to the husband that those were really tough to answer, not because I don't have a handle on the cash flow (I do—down to the penny), but because our farming "profit" also includes things that are hard to track by dollars and cents. I know how much I save at the grocery store, for instance, because we grow so much of our own food, but that's not reflected in the P&L generated by QuickBooks at the end of the year. Our farm is not a self-sustaining operation when viewed purely in terms of money. In fact, on the advice of our accountant, we run the income and expenses through the construction company LLC rather than having a separate LLC for the farm. From that standpoint, the farm is subsidized by the construction company. 

I messaged my friend Cathy to see if she had gotten the same letter. We'll have to get together and compare notes. First I have to go polish up my muck boots. 


I quilted a bit on the Christmas present quilt last night and then spent the next two hours picking out what I had quilted. (I see a theme emerging here.) I wasn't happy with either the quilting pattern or the thread color. I will try again tonight with a different thread color and pattern. (I do audition threads and patterns, but it's not always easy to extrapolate from a small sample how something is going to look on a larger item.) The thread color needs to be darker. That is kind of counterintuitive; you would think that a lighter-colored thread would blend in better, but in this case, the lighter-colored thread was standing out way too much on the multicolored fabrics. It's hard to explain without a picture. You'll have to trust me. 

I know that after the holidays, I am going to be ready to get back to working on something other than quilts. I still need to make an overnight bag for myself. I've had one on the to-do list for almost two years now. It's time to get it done. The benefit of having waited so long is that now I have a lot more bagmaking experience under my belt—and an industrial sewing machine—and I feel much more confident about tackling something like the Amy Butler Weekender, for example. I'll be up for the challenge. 

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Reader Comments (3)

While I'm not exactly putting on a tinfoil hat and looking out for black helicopters, I will admit that this kind of "harmless government curiosity" puts me a bit on edge. They are so deeply in the pockets of Monsanto and Friends, and have such a horrible record when it comes to their treatment of small, hardworking family farms and ranches.

Like many other things, your best course of action would be to comply and not make waves, and hope that you mostly fly under their radar. Hopefully what you're doing will just be a data point on some bureaucrat's chart, lost in an overwhelming flood of information.

But all the lawyer-written assurances in the world that this information will not be used against you somehow, in some sort of future government overreach, provide no comfort based on what ends up happening far too often.

Wow, do I sound paranoid or what?

December 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterChaotic Hammer

No, I had those same thoughts. We try to keep the government at arm's length as much as we can. If the survey questions had made me uncomfortable, I would not have completed it. They really did seem to apply more to large farming operations than to people like us, though.

December 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Szabo

Why any one would think you were not a farmer, but you are a farmer like anyone who has a garden, couple of chickens and a couple of pigs for your own use. You don't sell you products to anyone so they really shouldn't be interested in you. You are probably correct in that you process the pigs through a USDA processor put you on their radar. You probably could have just answered you raise food for your own use and leave it at that. You almost have to be a little paranoid to survive. I still am suspicious of the whole push to test your DNA and having it run through the Mormon church. I am very uncomfortable with someone having access to my DNA. Oh well.....

December 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDoreen

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